Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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Black Shunga

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Black Shunga

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Chris Ofili


Black Shunga

Creation Date


Medium & Support

line etching on paper


26 7/16  x 17 1/2 in. (67.15  x 44.45 cm)

Credit Line

Museum Purchase, Barbara Cooney Porter Fund

Accession Number



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In the Black Shunga etchings, lush azure and Prussian blue pigments swirl, pool, and bleed like water stains or cloud formations, evoking a range of settings—a nocturnal jungle, the depth of the ocean—all of which are enhanced by the underlayer of color-shifting metallic powder. Barely perceptible sinuous linework is printed over the expanse of blue. The viewer is compelled to look more closely and slowly as the silvery lines resolve into contours of figures engaged in a variety of intimate sexual acts. This imagery and the title of the suite refer to Japanese shunga-e, erotic woodblock prints made primarily in the Edo period (1615–1868). The addition of “Black” to “Shunga” in the title point to both the stereotyped exoticism of black bodies and the absence of black figures in the canon of Western art, as well as the more generalized lack of acknowledgment experienced by black populations in many of the societies in which they live.

Shelley R. Langdale
Curator & Head of Modern Prints and Drawings, National Gallery of Art, and President, Print Council of America

Portfolios: FEAT|Contemporary Art